Our cyber security products span from our next gen SIEM used in the most secure government and critical infrastructure environments, to automated cyber risk reporting applications for commercial and government organisations of all sizes.
The second “Notifiable Data Breaches Quarterly Statistics Report” has been published by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and it certainly makes for interesting reading. The statistics within this report show a definite upward trend in reporting and interestingly it also shows a swing from last quarter’s report towards the nature of the incidents, from human error to malicious data theft. Let’s look at some of the details within the OAIC’s report and see what it tells us about the state of security within Australia.
Earlier this year, amendments to the Privacy Act introduced the concept of Notifiable Data Breaches, mandating that organisations over a threshold of earning were obliged to report intrusions and breaches to the OAIC if they had a material detriment to individuals. The OAIC has committed to publish quarterly statistics that help businesses and government agencies better quantify the threat and target their privacy controls at the areas where breaches are most likely to occur.
Interestingly, the first report that came out three months ago showed a very different landscape to the one just released. Back then, an overwhelming majority of reported breaches occurred because of accidental release of information. However, this latest report pegs most of the breaches as malicious attacks, either as cyber security issues or as physical theft; 59% of the breaches OAIC was notified about were malicious or criminal attacks, while just 36% were attributed to human error.
OAIC received a total of 242 notifiable data breaches during this quarter’s reporting period, with the number of incidents being reported increasing month on month since the reporting scheme commenced on 22 February 2018. This shows that the word is spreading about the obligations companies have and that the first report (and the subsequent publicity) likely kicked some organisations into gear when it comes to understanding their obligations.
One thing the OAIC’s privacy statistics report does very well is remind companies and individuals of their obligations and rights under this new legislation. The report also does a good job of reporting on the reality of cyber-attacks and privacy breaches in Australia and certainly helps justify spending money on risk mitigation strategies. Contact information and financial details were the two most targeted categories of data this quarter, which tallies with the previous quarter.
Most people consider these as the primary privacy information categories, given these are both used by criminals in the pursuit of criminal gain. Identity theft using personal information is higher than financial data, since credit cards, even with full details (number, expiry date, pin code and CVV), are quickly cancelled by users. Identity theft is a much more insidious issue since the data used for that crime (which can also lead to financial gain if the criminal takes out credit using someone else’s ID) cannot be cancelled like a credit card. Your identity is with you for life, so any theft of unique tax file numbers, Medicare numbers, drivers licence numbers, etc. are all a much bigger problem.
This report clearly shows that most malicious hacking activities in Australia are targeting personally identifiable information, since this is the low-hanging fruit in terms of turning hacking effort into cash.
It’s worth noting that over the past few years in Australia there has been a lot of media coverage relating to hacking and large-scale cyber-attacks. Some of our biggest retailers and government departments were subject to successful hacks, some of which were attributed to criminal activity and others to overseas, nation-state threat actors, such as the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) attack a few years ago, when the threat actor allegedly used weaknesses in BOM’s network to jump onto a more sensitive government agency. All this media coverage of hacking changed the security conversation from a holistic information security debate to a more specific cyber-security debate, where the problem (and solution) was limited to network attacks.
Now this latest report from the OAIC shows that weaknesses in physical security are as much (if not more) of a threat vector than online. The reality is businesses have spent a lot of time shoring up their cyber defences, but as the OAIC report says, “Theft of paperwork or storage devices was a significant source of malicious or criminal attacks.” Furthermore, “Human error remained a major source of breaches, accounting for 36 per cent of data breaches.”
The difference, however, is the scale of the loss. Losing a filing cabinet can see hundreds of records fall into the hands of the criminals, but a well-timed cyber-attack on a health provider’s patient database could see hundreds of thousands of records falling into the wrong hands.
Compromised or stolen credentials, with the method of theft being unknown, is the firm leader in terms of threat vectors, with 34% of reported breaches attributed to this issue. Phishing is a close second, with 29% of attacks being directly attributed to this insidious and pervasive email threat. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the unknown methods of attack for compromised or stolen credentials had a high proportion of those also attributed to phishing, so both together make up the clear majority of cyber incidents reported during this period.
Unsurprisingly, health service providers were the top industry being targeted. The rich datasets containing highly confidential personally identifiable information are worth a lot on the black market. They can also be used in multiple kinds of attacks: bribery, extortion and identity theft to name just three potential crimes that can come from stolen health records.
The state of security in Australia could be better. The trends shown in this report, indicate that security is not as it should be. Many of the successful attacks are a result of simple phishing emails, which means that security awareness is deficient in these organisations.
In the background, security teams are often using labour intensive processes to deal with the millions of events pouring out of their security systems. This is exacerbated by a global skills shortage.
Huntsman Security has focused on making operational monitoring and alerting as easy as possible for security teams, with its Security Scorecard using the Essential Eight security controls. Research has shown that organisations that implement the controls measured by the scorecard are likely to fend off 85% of targeted cyber-attacks, so the investment is well worth making.
We’ve written other blogs on data breaches, you can find them here.
<<< Part 2a: Australia’s Essential Eight: Beyond Endpoint Control <<< Part 2b: Activating UK NCSC & US NIST Guidelines: Beyond Endpoint Control Part 4: Systematic Measurement of Cyber Controls >>> As much as we invest into cyber security controls, external threats are inevitable. In a recent Notifiable Data Breaches Report from the Office of the […]Read more
Keen campers, scouts and even the Swiss Army know – that a good penknife is indispensable. This simple device has mitigated many a disaster at one point in time or another. Whether it’s to cut through a bit of string, tighten a screw or simply to solve the problem of no bottle opener in the […]Read more
Supply chain risk is an area of cyber security that demands the ongoing attention of every enterprise; because it can make the difference between being resilient or not. It’s no surprise that insurers warn that the vulnerability of supply chains is potentially a systemic risk that can quickly propagate across supply chain dominated industries. Organisations […]Read more
It took a “tripartite cyber assessment” by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to identify that a sample of financial organisations had inadequate cyber security: poor security control management, a lack of business recovery planning and inadequate 3rd party risk assessment. Why were there gaps? Where is the failure? Clearly the common practice of unsubstantiated […]Read more
The discussion over data-driven vs qualitative cyber security assessment has been going for some time. Nowadays, it is at the top of the priority list for many security and senior executive teams. Managing cyber security has always been a noble ambition but without reliable measurement, the lack of actionable information makes evidence-based management decisions almost […]Read more
Attack Surface Management (ASM) characterises a business’s security risks as the monitoring and risk mitigation of a constantly changing and vulnerable “risk-surface”. Importantly, this attack surface extends to both internal and external assets and services. Some ASM solutions deliver clear visibility across both Internet facing and internal assets. Others do not. Instead, they assess external […]Read more
The UK Government has released its annual “Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2023”. It provides some valuable insights into how cyber security is currently being managed in the UK, by a range of organisations. It also speaks to how current competing economic priorities are impacting the effectiveness of some cyber security management efforts. The full report […]Read more
Solving the mismatch between cyber security reporting and directors’ requirements You are undoubtedly familiar with the headlines; you may have even become in part desensitised to them: ‘Cyber-attacks are increasingly damaging’, or ‘large amounts of personal data are most at risk’. The important take-away, however, is that modern day thieves can easily gain access to […]Read more
A system to address the untrustworthy security environment Zero trust approaches to security have been talked about for a while; but in recent times they have certainly gained more currency. As a model for protecting data and services, the simplicity of the concept is its biggest strength – assume, as a default position, there is […]Read more
The ongoing protection of Critical Infrastructure from cyber-attacks has implications for us all – whether it’s supporting our health, well-being or simply our way of life, there is good reason to reflect on the effectiveness your cyber security. Cyber security risks are nothing new and the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to them (and the heightened […]Read more
Read by directors, executives, and security professionals globally, operating in the most complex of security environments.